Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent 1 Reflection

Advent 1 2015

Readings Jer 33: 14-16; 1 Thess 3: 9-13; Luke 21: 25-36


With the ordination yesterday, I have already reflected on part of the gospel for this morning and simply offer a minor reflection for this start to Advent.

The signs of Christmas, decorations and all the seasonal paraphernalia, have been in supermarkets and shops for perhaps a month now.  The commercial world has been ready for Christmas – raring to go you might say – for some time.

By comparison the church doesn’t seem to be in quite the same space.  Of course I think that fortunate: I walk past the trinkets in the gift aisle at the supermarket – and wonder at the ‘Advent Calendar’ with its little treats, each day on the calendar marking the countdown to the great day.

I am impressed by the stark contrast between the sticky treats or sentiments of some Advent Calendars and the way the Church keeps Advent.  There is nothing sweet, sticky or in any way sentimental or tinselly about the first Sunday of Advent. 

Last Judgement, Giotto, 1306 detail
Instead we are confronted with images of the end of the world; with the winding up of all things; the wrapping up of time and with the coming of God.  Images of storm and disaster, the end of days, shake us – we will, it is true, get to Christmas, to the promise of the child in the manger, but not before this drum roll of doom and disaster has shaken us.

Why is it like this?  Why do we have the shock and the disorientation of the apocalypse as our start on the way toward Christmas?

Think of Advent 1 as a ‘wake-up call’ – the church rouses itself from sleep, from apathy, from sloth and despair.  We are roused to focus once again on what really matters – and maybe it takes a shock to wake us up; imagine a sleepy driver who at the wheel suddenly realises he is on the wrong side of the road and, horn blaring, there is a giant Kenwood truck bearing down towards him.  Under enough stress, one wakes up!

To be awoken like that – is to be forced to get back on track; get back to living the journey we are created for and called to work at through all our living; our life’s journey into God and to do our part in building the kingdom.

This Sunday of the new liturgical year wakes us up to face our deepest anxieties and fears.  Our mortality – and what that means in the limitless abyss of the universe, vast beyond all conception.  What are we?  We hide from that thought by all the trappings, tinsel, playthings and anodyne that the world can provide.  Yet on this day the Church rouses us to face that deepest dread and find our pathway again – because the church has something wonderful to show us.

Behind the unsettling apocalyptic noise of this day, the Church is urgently whispering, ‘Come and see’, the world is much, oh so much more than you have ever dreamed my love; don’t stay asleep; wake up; the dawn is near; eternity is all about you.  Come and see.

These thoughts call to mind of R.S.Thomas’s poem ‘The Bright Field’

The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

On this Advent Sunday, we are to wake up and turn aside and in the brightness of a world seen afresh, be ready for the eternity that awaits us.

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